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Safe Food for Canadians – Licence Requirement

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has responded to questions concerning licensing requirements under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

CFIA: As you are probably aware, the new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) are coming into force on January 15, 2019 and will introduce a new licensing requirement for all imported foods including certain foods that did not previously require an import licence.  The responses to your questions below are based on the new SFCR requirements.

1. When is the time frame in which an importer must obtain a license? For example, is it prior to shipping? Prior to arrival?
CFIA: Importers are required to obtain their licence prior to importing their food. When the importer applies for their SFCR licence they will have to attest that they are meeting the requirements of the regulations which means, prior to applying for their licence the importer must have developed a preventive control plan in relation to the food they plan on importing as well as prepared their traceability records.

In addition to the above requirements importers will be required to provide certain information about their shipment including their licence number, prior to or at the time of import. Importers can find more information on the regulatory requirements in the document, Regulatory requirements: Trade.  The CFIA has also developed the document; Importing food: A step-by-step guide to help importers understand the steps they need to take to import food under these new regulations.

Depending on the food commodity being imported, the import licence requirement will apply as of January 15, 2019 or July 15, 2020.  An important thing to note is that if an importer currently holds a licence or registration issued by the CFIA; they will be able to continue to use that licence or registration until it expires even once the SFCR comes into force. Once their existing licence or registration expires, they will need to apply for a licence under the SFCR. Importers can also use the following tools on the CFIA website to determine if and when they need a licence; the licencing interactive tool and the timelines resources.

2. If a licence has not been obtained but the goods have been found to be acceptable, would CFIA consider allowing a license to be issued after examination of the goods, with perhaps a penalty being assessed?

CFIA: During the first year of the coming into force of the SFCR, if an importer has not obtained a licence prior to importing their goods into Canada, their shipment will be released to them however, they will be informed that their shipment was non-compliant since they did not have a licence and they will be required to obtain a licence as soon as possible. After that first year, starting January 15, 2020; if a valid SFCR licence is not provided as part of the import declaration shipments will be refused entry into Canada.

Please note that, certain foods such as confectionary, snack foods, beverages, oils, dried herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, coffee and tea, processed grain-based foods such as baked goods, cereals and pasta, will not require a SFCR licence until July 15, 2020. For more information on the foods that do not require a licence until July 15, 2020 please see; Timetable: All other food.